We’re approaching the season of ‘Best … of the year’ lists, and video games is no different. The top lists of the year are likely to be dominated by the big hitters like Deathloop, Pyschonauts 2, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and Resident Evil Village. However, 2021 has been a fantastic year for games, and today I want to share some games you may have missed, but should definitely check out before the year is up.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a top-down RPG-like adventure game where you have to restore colour to an otherwise black and white world with a mystical magic paintbrush. In terms of gameplay, there’s the core mechanic of painting, but there are also puzzles to solve, cute NPCs to talk to, and boss fights to have. The game deals with some hard-hitting topics in a well-balanced way, plus there’s loads of personalisation you can imprint on the main protagonist like hats and shirts, which offer up another canvas to allow you to express yourself.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale was developed by Greg Lobanov, A Shell in the Pit and is available for PlayStation 4/5, plus PC and Mac too.
Loop Hero is a game that is quite tricky to fit into one genre. It has elements of roguelike, deck building, RPG, and auto battling that come together in a very satisfying way. Loop hero does what it says on the tin… you are a hero who travels in a constant loop, battling and building up your stats as you go. Rather than the traditional method of controlling the hero in the game, you look down on the loop from above and place tiles, and select weapons and items for the hero which helps generate materials and other powerups. Loop Hero gave me big Knightmare vibes, and it’s a game that manages to get its hooks into you quite quickly which in turn makes the time fly by.
Loop Hero was developed by Four Quarters and is available on PC, Mac, Linux, and also Nintendo Switch.
Unpacking is perhaps the most zen-like game I’ve played this year. This is a game that tells a story in a non-traditional way. Rather than have a character talk to other characters in the game to communicate who they are and what they do, the story developments here are done entirely through taking personal possessions out of boxes and placing them in various rooms throughout a lifetime. Moving is something we can relate to, and Unpacking manages to remove all the stress and create a fun experience from unpacking and placing items around various rooms.
Unpacking was developed by Witch Beam and is available on Nintendo Switch, Mac, Linux, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S. Plus it’s also available on Xbox Game Pass.
Wildermyth is a tactics-focused RPG with a procedural narrative. At the heart of the game is a combination of two game genres – a deep and rich RPG experience where your choices shape the narrative, combined with a satisfying tactics battle system. This is all wrapped up in a dynamic comic-strip art style, which compliments the gameplay perfectly well. The core gameplay is the Xcom-style two-turn tactics combat system, which is easy to pick up and play but hard to master. The writing in Wildermyth is some of the best I’ve seen in 2021, and when paired with the procedural nature of the game which should make that much harder, it executes each element of the game very well to provide a well rounded, D&D-like gaming experience.
Wildermyth was developed by Worldwalker Games and is available on PC, Mac, and Linux.
Grime is a Metroidvania souls-like that combines platforming, action, and plenty of secrets. You’ll level up, find new items, and be able to get to new areas as you progress. Enemies are challenging, and you have a variety of weapons to take them down. Weapons include swords, clubs, daggers in all different shapes and forms. As well as your weapons there’s a decent parry mechanic, which utilizes the black hole on your head. If you like games like Ori and Hollow Knight, it’s worth checking out Grime.
Grime was developed by Clover Bite and is available on PC, Mac, and Google Stadia.
Cybershadow is an action platformer that harks back to the days of 8-bit games both in graphical style and in its difficulty too. It takes inspiration from the classic 2D sidescrolling action, tricky platforming, and precise action. The gameplay in Cybershadow is inspired by Ninja Gaiden. It’s your job to navigate the world, armed with only a sword, to begin with, a use jumps, dodges, and attacks to remove the enemies from your path. Cybershadow eases you in nice and gentle on the first level, but then the difficulty really ramps up as you get past the first stage. This game is perfect for those wanting a trip down memory lane with a side-scrolling slash ’em up.
Cybershadow was developed by Aarne Hunziker and is available on PlayStation 4/5, PC, Linux, Nintendo Switch, Mac, and Xbox One. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass.
Inscryption is a creepy card game where sometimes the cards talk back and you have to try and find your way out of the prisoner-predicament you find yourself in. At the heart of the game is an animal-based card game and it’s your job to inflict enough damage on your opponent before they do the same to you. Lose more than twice, and you’ll get strangled. After a few hours of play, the game starts to open up and make much more sense, as you get to grips with the cards and how they interact with each other. As you play new elements open up on the map, and also surprising story elements will appear too. Try and avoid spoilers and experience it for yourself if you can.
Inscryption was developed by Daniel Mullins Games and is available on PC, Mac, and Linux, plus there’s a free demo on Steam if you want to give it a try for no cost.
Overboard is a kind of murder mystery. The game starts off with you playing as Veronica, who throws her husband overboard and you spend the rest of the time trying to pin the murder on someone else. The game is part 2D puzzle game and also an interactive story. There’s a whole load of narrative choices in the game, plus the writing is sharp as a knife and very funny. Overboard is great fun, easy to get into, and instantly memorable. It is an Inkle game, so you will be reading a fair amount, however, it’s well worth it for the sheer quality of the writing backed up with the fantastic design and audio.
Overboard was developed by Inkle Studios and is available on iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch.
Death’s Door is an isometric Zelda-like with elements of the Souls genre, plus there’s plenty of secrets to discover too. You play as a small Crow, working for the Reaper Commission by harvesting the souls of the living. The controls are tight, the gameplay is fun and varied plus the game looks & sounds great too. The puzzles work very well and strike a good balance of difficulty, the only real drawback of the game is the incentive to go back and play it again due to the lack of variety of loot.
Death’s Door was developed by Acid Nerve and is available on PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
Before Your Eyes
Before Your Eyes is a narrative adventure with a difference, instead of using the mouse or a controller, you blink to control the game. The mechanic is more than just a novelty in a powerful narrative game that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Much of the game is a lean-back style and watch the narrative play out, however, when you blink time will jump forward. Maybe it’ll be a day or a week or even years forward. The game requires a webcam to be set up to register the blinks, but this is easy to do and works surprisingly well. If playing with the webcam doesn’t sound like it’s for you, then there’s good news because it can be played with traditional input methods like a mouse and keyboard. Before Your Eyes is a really well-put-together game that innovates in its controls and tells a very touching, personal story throughout the narrative. It’s not too long, it’s a very memorable experience and a unique little gem that’s worth checking out. Before your Eyes was developed by GoodbyeWorld Games and are available on PC and Mac.